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Part-Time Characters: Justice League and Thor Ragnarok Reviewed

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The One Where Adonis is Sick
Quote: What phrasing would you prefer Adonis? ‘I don’t know, making out. Or tonguing.’
TONGUING?!

In our shortest episode to date, Bridget, Adonis and I talk about superhero movies, both Marvel and DC. Adonis does his best to defend Justice League and their CGI over Henry Caville’s moustache and Bridget pretends she is not head over heels for Thor. Neither were very successful.

Go on…Part-Time Characters: Justice League and Thor Ragnarok Reviewed

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‘Wonder Woman’ Boldly Enters The No Man’s Land Of Superhero Movies

wonder woman

Wonder Woman is the long-awaited blockbuster superhero flick featuring the world’s most famous superheroine. It’s also a much-needed palate-cleanser for DC and Warner Bros’ shared universe movies. But in a lot of ways, Wonder Woman herself carries far more important burdens than the woes of a franchise.

The studios that make comic-book movies have had a serious problem with delivering female-centric movies. It took 75 years to bring Wonder Woman, one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, to the big screen, long after Catwoman, Elektra, and even Supergirl in the 80s.

In all that time, we’ve had numerous Superman and Batman films, three Spider-Man continuities, and a slew of lesser-known characters like Spawn, Steel, and even Jonah Hex on the big screen before Diana Prince, who has long been relegated to enjoyable TV shows and animated movies.

But no longer. Following up on her tremendous screen presence in the otherwise malignant Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot returns as the sword-and-shield clad force of agency, this time with a backstory that carefully steps around the comics in many ways, while still playing tribute to the character’s best traits.

Go on…‘Wonder Woman’ Boldly Enters The No Man’s Land Of Superhero Movies

Ranking The Best Superhero Movies Of 2016

From Deadpool to Doctor Strange, here’s how I rank the top superhero movies of the year. The post below is a transcription of the video above, minus some extra commentary at the very end.

It’s pretty obvious at this point in 2016 that the “superhero genre” is here to stay. These movies seize a huge share of box office profits every year, and their mainstream takeover isn’t slowing down in the slightest. Going back a decade, we’ve gotten at least four or five “big” superhero movies a year, sometimes six, and this year saw eight alone, with all but two of them being huge moneymakers and making the top 10 grossers of the year.

I say “superhero” movie, by the way, because things get messy when you try to categorize these films by “comic book.” For the same reason it would get a little hairy if you tried to lump all book adaptation movies together, because they stretch across so many genres and sub genres. With a superhero movie, you’re at least addressing a few basic similarities between movies that are derived from DC, Marvel, and other studios. You have a hero (or heroes) with strange abilities who goes on some type of emotional, action-packed journey.

superhero movies 2016

So this year, I want to point out which superhero movies in 2016 were “better” than others, not just from a film critic standpoint, but also from how they contribute or don’t contribute to the ever-expanding superhero movie genre. I have to leave out two movies in particular because I haven’t seen them: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Max Steel. Because I don’t review absolutely everything that comes out, these ended up being on my cutting board of films to review over the summer, and I have no desire to check them out anytime soon.

But the rest of the entries on this list are certainly ones you’ve heard of if you’re a big fan of superhero movies, but in case you haven’t watched them all, I’ll be avoiding any and all spoilers within reason. So let’s begin with the worst of the bunch:

#6 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

superhero movies 2016

The film critic in me can’t stand this movie. It’s an abomination of narrative, pacing, and character development to the point of almost being a parody. But the DC fan in me has plenty of nice things to say in spite of all that, notably from a visual standpoint. The costumes are incredible, the subject matter is at least interesting in theory, and most of the characters are well-cast with the exception of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

The strange thing, though, is that despite being such a weak movie overall, it contains some of my favorite superhero moments of 2016, including Batman’s warehouse fight, the Trinity’s stand against Doomsday, and Wonder Woman’s theme music. Unfortunately, these bright spots just don’t overshadow enough of the problems to redeem the rest of this frustrating embarrassment of a superhero movie.

#5 Suicide Squad

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For me, Suicide Squad was just a slim margin better than Dawn of Justice, mostly because the standards were set just a little lower thanks to this being a movie about lesser-known characters I’ve always wanted to see on the big screen.

It does have some of the same issues as Dawn of Justice, though, particularly when it comes to style over substance with its visuals and plot. But the characters are mostly fun to watch and suggestive of a bigger, better DCEU we haven’t gotten to see enough of yet.

#4 X-Men: Apocalypse

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I actually liked this one quite a bit more than most, mainly because I’ve been hoping for a better realization of these characters since the third X-Men movie, and for the most part, Apocalypse is immensely entertaining lore for longtime fans.

It’s nowhere near perfect, of course, but there are enough great moments here to overlook some of the bland story structure and checklist of characters for Fox to cross off their list. This is one of those superhero movies I walked away from wanting more, which is both a criticism and a complement in this case.

#3 Doctor Strange

superhero movies 2016

Familiarity breeds contempt, and so it goes for some who view Doctor Strange as more of the same from Marvel. And they’re not entirely wrong. This is the origin formula Marvel has been polishing since 2008, complete with a flawed protagonist who has to humble himself after gaining extraordinary powers.

And mileage varies for anyone who appreciates some stunning visual effects that go with the whole package, as you might be one of those viewers who can’t get past folding cities reminding them of Inception, or just someone looking for a breezy, colorful Marvel movie with some clever spins on what’s already worked before.

#2 Deadpool

superhero movies 2016

This was the movie that arguably had the bigger impact on comic book fans this year, even ones who never liked the character much before seeing this movie. And that’s because it’s less a superhero or anti-hero movie and more a self-reflection of the genre itself.

That lended for some great movie moments and humor, but at its core, Deadpool is just barely shy of real greatness, as it only manages to tackle a small handful of neat ideas over and over again, using a formula that’s not far removed from much of what we’ve seen before. It won’t be long before the movie will be remembered as a lightning in the bottle experiment that aged a bit quicker than we expected.

#1 Captain America: Civil War

superhero movies 2016

If you had to criticize Civil War for one thing, it might be that it almost has too much going on in its long running time. But if what you’re looking for is a dense spectacle that reshapes a cinematic universe with recognizable characters, then Civil War absolutely had you in mind.

There were so many ways for this movie to completely fail: the villain could have been atrocious, new arrivals Black Panther and Spider-Man could have been mishandled, we could’ve gotten more Iron Man than Captain America, the emotional stakes by the very end could have come off as meaningless, and so on. But while it stumbles at times, Civil War pulls all of this off in an entertaining, often thrilling way.

And close to everything we love most in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a time to shine, paid off after years of buildup and patience. Similar to how a comic book event can impact longtime readers, this was worthy of its title and then some.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Marvel Has Been Successful Because It’s Better at Being Different

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Until the end of the “superhero golden era” finally comes, we won’t be able to analyze the full impact that Marvel Studios has had with its cinematic universe of movies. But even though we don’t have the full picture at our disposal, everyone has their own reasonable guess for how and why Marvel been the dominant superhero movie franchise for nearly a decade, in terms of both critical and fan reception.

Some of the effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are quite obvious, and I think that’s why vague observations about Marvel Studios are tossed around by its naysayers. When you think of shared universe movies — that is, movies that share the same characters and other sandbox elements without being direct sequels — you might feel the urge to groan a bit, especially if you watch and keep up with a lot of different movie franchises that all strive to replicate what Marvel did so well with Iron Man in 2008.

Sony tried to kickstart a Spider-Man shared universe of villains and ultimately failed. Universal has long been planning a shared universe of monster movies, citing they could have the “Avengers” of Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Wolfman, and more. Even a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe is reportedly in the works, planned to kick off with a new Scooby Doo movie. And this year’s Ghostbusters ends with a universe-setting teaser straight out of the ambiguously defined Marvel formula.

Marvel’s most direct rival, and for several obvious, yet key reasons, is DC Comics, which Warner Bros. owns the exclusive rights to. After a hugely successful trilogy of Batman movies, all helmed by Christopher Nolan and universally praised by fans and critics, Warner Bros. took the next logical step toward establishing a shared universe of their own that could do for Wonder Woman and the Flash what Marvel managed for Iron Man and Captain America, just to name a few.

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Remember, just one year after Nolan’s Batman trilogy ended with The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel, the perfunctory beginning of what was meant to be something completely different compared to anything put out by Marvel Studios.

Except, well, Marvel has already  been “different” by its own standards for years, and it’s found great success doing so, while DC Comics hasn’t. At least not on the same scale.

To be fair, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were not financial failures, but they did fail to live up to their profitable potential, making less money domestically than Deadpool, which is based on a character far less popular and recognizable than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. And even more recently, Suicide Squad has been panned by critics for sharing a lot of the same flaws of these movies, though it will still open to huge box office numbers, regardless.

What’s odd, then, is that the films have been criticized by many for being too different, using phrases like joyless and dark to color a picture of a movie that doesn’t deliver the same experience viewers got with most of the Marvel movies.

marvel better different

Supporters of these DC Comics movies have a right to call out this opinion for being intellectually dishonest. Of course a movie like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is different, they say. If it were the same formula as a movie like The Avengers, then critics would complain just as feverishly.

Both sides of this argument have it wrong, then. Because what they both forget is that while there is a bare-bones formula to the Marvel movies that makes them feel cohesive — that is, it’s easy to believe the movies exist in the same universe at all — none of them are all that similar to any of the others in just about every other way, unless the movie is a sequel, and even then, Marvel movies have a habit of changing entire subgenres in between their sequels.

One of the best and most famous examples of Marvel being “different” involves the entirety of what sets up the first Avengers movie, which serendipitously released the same year as The Dark Knight Rises. The very concept of setting up an ensemble superhero film after several standalone pictures that establish the characters was brand new at the time and, more importantly, untested.

Yet The Avengers is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time and was universally acclaimed by moviegoers, which holds up even today.

marvel better different

It’s fair to judge Marvel for being good at being different based on the fact that people loved The Avengers, despite how risky the structure of it was, and because it provided a sizable return on investment both financially and even culturally, hence we’re even having this debate about superhero movies being different.

What’s even more interesting, though, is the fact that Marvel movies have continued to be different and surprising, even though they have a proven formula they could repeat on end to minimize the risk of failure.

For example, the Marvel films that have truly defied expectations include Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, arnhich were both proven hits for the studio, despite being completely different from any other Marvel film in tone, structure, and many other crucial elements.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an action comedy set in space, and most of its characters aren’t even human. That’s a far cry from any other comic book film, period, let alone Marvel movies like Iron Man and even Thor. The premise of Ant-Man is absurd enough, despite the movie actually taking place on Earth. Yet it feels so different as a superhero movie because first and foremost, it’s really a heist film with bits of Edgar Wright’s unique editing style thrown in.

marvel better different

The upcoming Doctor Strange, set to release this November, is also a movie that — judging by the marketing and previous knowledge of the character — looks and feels different from previous Marvel offerings, because it seems to be tackling unchartered territory in terms of fantasy elements and dimensional science for the hero of that movie to experience.

These movies, excluding the as of yet unseen Doctor Strange, have been hits with both critics and casual audiences because yes, they’re different. So it’s strange, then, when both critics and naysayers of Marvel movies speak as if this cinematic universe has a firm license on vague storytelling elements, like humor and quipping. There’s a desire for DC to be the other side of the coin, different and more progressive than what might be called a mainstream superhero franchise with Marvel.

The problem with that desire, though, is that Marvel has already been the other side of that coin, and the other side of many coins that they, themselves, have inserted into the zeitgeist of superhero films. They don’t always get it right, of course, and some of their risks have been paid off better than others, but if DC should take notes on being “different” for the sake of surprising and delighting its fans, it should really be paying more attention to Marvel. Not less.

Because being different, while a good start, is not a merit on its own. Fantastic Four was different, which we can all agree on. But that definitely didn’t improve what was inherently flawed with that film. A non-Marvel movie that’s great at being different is Deadpool, made by Fox, proving that a superhero film doesn’t have to be made by Disney in order for it to be beloved by just about everyone old enough to see it.

marvel better different

I still have high hopes for DC Comics moving forward, though not nearly as high as I used to three years ago. But if you’re reading this and feeling a bit alienated because you want DC Comics and Warner Bros. to keep taking risks and producing films with these iconic characters that demand to be different from what we’ve seen before, then you can definitely take solace in one, major thing: The DC Comics movie universe under Geoff Johns — their new Chief Creative Officer and co-developer of The Flash on CW — kicks off next year with Wonder Woman.

And from what we’ve seen so far of that movie, the future could still be quite bright (not dark) for DC Comics.


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Review: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

avengers age of ultron review

Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t as dark and dreary as one might expect after watching the trailer (or several of them, for that matter), but it’s still a superb action film, even if it’s a bit too familiar for most Marvel fans craving a step in a new direction.

Like the last ensemble film, our heroes must unite (and bicker endlessly) to take down a villain related to one of the Avengers (this time, Tony Stark), culminating in an all out battle against the villain’s army (this time made of robots in the place of aliens). And unlike Avengers, there are two or three other climaxes thrown in for good measure, depending on who you ask.

This makes Age of Ultron at least “feel” much longer than its predecessor, especially previous Marvel films with only one central character, as it’s stuffed with too much action to follow on the first viewing. That makes it essential viewing for anyone somewhat familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and happy about that fact, but it’s not quite the genre-defining movie we may have unwittingly expected.

And that’s OK. Age of Ultron does what Marvel movies do best: deliver some of the most spectacular action scenes possible with this generation’s lineup of iconic heroes. And that’s definitely satisfying for anyone remotely interested in the lore involved. It’s absolutely an event movie that will best be experienced by a crowded theater of super-fans giggling at every quip and jab these characters perform onscreen. But I expect it will also be a fun distraction on a slow Saturday night at home.

What makes Age of Ultron essential, however, is how remarkable it is to see this experiment continue to evolve with even richer stories for characters we thought we knew. There’s more going on in the head of Tony Stark than ever before, and that’s obviously counting three movies dedicated solely to his character arc. Several other characters are given their rightful due, specifically with Hawkeye becoming more than an irreverent archer afraid of mind-manipulation.

The romance between Hulk and Black Widow manifests early, saving it from feeling like a spurred encounter. Instead, we’re forced to wonder about the circumstances that caused it, which happened entirely offscreen. It’s not the strongest element of Ultron (that goes to the realization of Vision as a mainstay), but it’s certainly one of the riskiest. And who doesn’t want more risks from the film franchise that has it all?

Grade: A-

Celebrating 10 Years of ‘The Incredibles’ (With Myth-Busting)

Today marks the 10th anniversary of one of Pixar’s most treasured films, The Incredibles. A sequel is in the works, but it’s not due for another few years. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some myths about the movie that deserve to be busted.

Specifically, one of my favorite websites (as you know) is Cracked.com, and they’ve celebrated the anniversary by poking some light-hearted fun at the movie and Pixar. Let’s take a look!

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Mark Hill and JM McNab | ‘The Incredibles’ is Disney’s ‘Watchmen:’

The Incredibles shares more than just a premise with the graphic novel Watchmen, which later became a movie itself, albeit one that replaces the source material’s Reagan-era malaise with emo hissy fits. As pointed out by Baltimore Sun writer Michael Sragow, both stories concern a world where superheroes exist but have been forced to retire after the American government outlaws their work for political reasons (apparently Canada and Mexico don’t have any crime worth fighting).

Both movies feature a pathetic hero who feels emasculated in retirement — Nite Owl in Watchmen, Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles. They’re getting old, they’re getting fat, and they’re disillusioned by their mundane lives.

Both superheroes are drawn out of retirement to investigate the disappearances of other retired superheroes. They eventually discover that the murderers are exceptionally intelligent supervillains with no actual powers. There’s Ozymandias in Watchmen and Syndrome in The Incredibles — both once wanted to be superheroes, and even as villains they believe they’re serving the greater good. Also, they both have dumb hair.

There are a lot of issues with that last point, the main one being that Ozymandias wasn’t an outsider to the superheroes like Syndrome was. And his motivations have nothing to do with being accepted as a superhero, as opposed to Syndrome. Their goals, endgame and character arcs are wildly distinct.

The hair thing is pretty accurate, though.

incredibles

Going further, the reasons for why superheroes were outlawed are vastly different between to the two stories. In Incredibles, supers were banned because of their collateral damage and perceived negative influence on the world. Humans just wanted them gone.

In Watchmen, superheroes weren’t really necessary anymore because Mr. Manhattan was a demigod who could solve everyone’s problems (and wars) at will. So the differences between these stories come down to need vs. want.

Lastly, Mr. Incredible is not “drawn out of retirement to investigate the disappearances of other retired superheroes.” That’s just completely false. He’s lured out of retirement to relive the glory days and work for what he believes to be a top-secret government agency. He just wants to be a super again. He doesn’t even realize superheroes are being hunted and killed en masse until a while after Syndrome betrays him on Nomanisan.

I suppose Syndrome believes he’s serving the “greater good,” but it’s certainly not in the same vein as the more serious Ozymandias. Syndrome is really only concerned with satisfying his own ego and eliminating the very concept of being “special” or super. Ozymandias carries his plan forth because he honestly believes it’s the best solution for mankind.

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Mike Guernsey | The Incredibles — The Return of Heroes Means the Return of Villains:

The ban on heroism prevented heroes from heroing without the fear of legal action, but the supervillains were already operating outside the law — the ban opened the door to a whole new world of crime. You’d half-expect the newly unstoppable villains to take over the planet, but flash-forward 15 years and there’s no evidence of mass slavery, destroyed cities, a villain king — nothing. The supervillains are apparently as extinct as the heroes. When Mr. Incredible sneaks out to do some occasional crime fighting by night, he’s taking on regular old petty criminals.

The article also points out that not long after the Incredibles return to the public eye at the end of the movie, the Underminer arises (literally out of nowhere) as a new, malicious supervillain. Mike, the author, makes the assumption that he’s the first supervillain in a long time, thus claiming the Incredibles to be the cause of some sort of supervillain outbreak.

This isn’t really grounded in any tangible proof, though. Supervillains may not be running around on the screen during the movie (besides Syndrome), but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And even if it did, that’s correlation, not causation.

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Also, that makes me wonder the motivations of these supposed villains. Why would it make sense for you to only be a supervillain if there are superheroes around? Is the assumption that they’re bored and only willing to commit crimes if there’s someone as strong as them ready to foil their plans? When you think about it, the whole thing falls a bit flat.

I think it’s more reasonable to assume that the super villains were still around, but never a pervasive threat. In fact, there probably weren’t that many of them at all to begin with. Mike even points out that the villains (like Bomb Voyage) don’t have any “super powers,” which means the authorities were probably enough to deal with them.

They just did what they pleased and avoided capture, which became that much easier once the superheroes were banned. We also don’t know if superheroes still fought villains as vigilantes (similar to Mr. Incredible and Frozone) over the years despite the ban.

So there you have it. 10 years later and we’re still talking about The Incredibles. Now that’s how you know Pixar is good at making movies.

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Let’s Break Down the New “Thor: The Dark World” Trailer

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The new trailer for Thor: The Dark World has just come out and unsurprisingly confused moviegoers everywhere. Luckily, screenshots and sarcasm exist, so I broke down what I got out of the whole thing.

Here’s the trailer first, and then we’ll have an honest discussion:

The trailer kicks off where the last one left off, Thor approaching his evil brother, Loki, for help.

After all this time…now you come to visit me brother. Why? To mock?

For some reason, Lowkey doesn’t seem very keen on this battle-plan and takes it out on the appliances. Harsh.

So the starcrossed brothers agree that they hate/don’t trust each other and officially join up. I like the idea, especially since Lowkey and his hair have been well-loved by Avengers fans.

Odin/Anthony Hopkins begins narrating, because thank Asgard, and tells us that things actually existed before things.

Some believe that before the universe, there was nothing. Well, they’re wrong.

Apparently, this darkness hates London, because that’s where all this vague, evil stuff is happening.

We see the only comic relief from these movies looking pretty serious (unfortunately) as darkness ship approaches. Also, we get a look at Darcy’s boyfriend, Ian Boothby. I don’t really know who this guy is from the comics or if he’s significant. Let’s just hope he doesn’t die that quickly.

Apparently Ian is British.

Thoar shows up and makes eyes with Jane, presumably telling her what the trailer makers refuse to tell us (what’s going on). Then he whisks her away on a rainbow and stuff.

She probably said something like, “Hey this seems pretty dangerous,” but that’s definitely not enough to dissuade Thoar from hanging out with Natalie Portman, so.

We then see a steel pod. No idea. Even Idris Elba comes on the scene and points out how unnecessarily mysterious this movie is.

But Thoar claims that there is someone who knows who the villain is, and that’s Lowkey. Because apparently villains friend each other online.

We then see the ThunderGodFriends each displaying how much they don’t like their former comrade, which is the highlight of the trailer. Even Sif-ylous gets a jab.

When is she getting her own movie again? Oh and Jane Hostage gets a slap in.

Aside from Sif-ylous looking overly worried in the background and Lowkey apparently being turned on by pain, the trailer transitions to the soundtrack-fueled action scenes.

There’s a waterfall which is pretty cool. Everyone is on a boat. Oh, and the Drell make an appearance as the villains!

The villain starts talking (probably the guy who played the cop in Bridesmaids) and tells Thoar that his awesomeness isn’t that awesome because they’re going to do bad things.

Then something surprising happens after a slew of confusing action scenes. Jane Hostage is back with her friends (stockholm syndrome?) and reveals what the villain’s actual goal is. This is huge people.

Because whatever.

Then Thoar fights the Drell from the London part of the movie that they skipped earlier, thank Asgard, and we’re treated to an extended scene of Thoar going Indiana Jones on this dude.

Thoar turns him into a bunch of rocks thanks to his hammer being magic and then he says something that isn’t actually cheesy.

Overall, I liked this trailer a lot. We got to see more of the London setting and interactions between the main heroes and Loki (okay I’ll say it right).

What’s looking good is the movie’s willingness to thrust the side heroes into bigger roles. Sif gets more screen time, and we even see Thor’s mom fighting. Also, using Asgard as the backdrop for most of this movie lends to the strengths of this adaptation.

After all, the stakes have to be high for the God of Thunder, and we need a reasonable explanation for why none of the other Avengers will show up, which Iron Man 3 managed to pull off pretty well.

I do have several questions however…

1. Will Jane slap Sif as hard as she did Loki when they fight over Thor?

2. Will EA sue Marvel for ripping off Mass Effect?

3. How will this movie affect Tom Hiddleston’s dubstep career?

Thor: The Dark World will be hitting theaters November 8. 

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

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